HEINEKEN's CEO on leading a 150-year-old company

Part I: Confronting societal expectations
Nov 6, 2014 3:05 PM ET

Heineken’s CEO on leading a 150-year-old company

We would like to draw your attention to an interview our CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer had with McKinsey for their McKinsey Quarterly recently. The focus of the interview and article is on leading a 150 year old company, managing for the long term with a specific focus on innovation and sustainability.

Chapter 'Confronting societal expectations'

The company should not think that it is there to issue policy lines for society. It can issue statements about its own behavior, but not prescribe policy. You have no legitimacy to do that. You are accountable in front of tax authorities in the countries where you operate for your employees, for your shareholders, your suppliers, but in the first place, to your consumers.

And what is specific to our industry is the alcohol problem. Alcohol abuse has always been existent in the world, and we have no advantage to be promoting alcohol abuse because that makes our business unsustainable. So how can you play your part to make your business more sustainable? It is to advocate responsible consumption.

The latest addition was made by a deejay in the Netherlands. Armin van Buuren has a successful international career. And in his commercial spot he makes the point of, "Dance more, drink slow." The ad campaign says, "When you have a good dancing party, you drink less." And I had to explain to my people that it was better to sell less and dance more, rather than trying to sell more and having unfolding situations at the party.